Following our article in July, recent figures released by the Government suggest that more than a third of non-residential properties audited remain non-compliant with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the “RRO”).

Action was taken in 12,932 premises as a result of non- compliance and the worst performers were licensed premises with only 52% of 8,200 premises being “satisfactorily compliant”. 30% of 4,900 offices and 29% of 6,000 factories and warehouses were also found to be non- compliant. The figures are particularly stark when the data is considered more closely; just 3% of premises in England and Wales were checked last year. This means there could be hundreds of thousands of non-domestic premises which are breaking the law, placing the safety of workers and the general public at risk, invalidating their insurance and leaving themselves open to huge fines before the criminal courts.

The areas in which premises were most commonly non- compliant were:

  • Article 9 – risk assessment
  • Article 14 – emergency routes and exits
  • Article 17 – maintaining precautions

Clearly something is failing but what can the health and safety industry do to change this? The RRO made significant improvements in consolidating the previous collection of regulations, but is it still too confusing for businesses? Or is  it the case that businesses believe they are outside the scope of the regulations or simply can’t afford to allocate sufficient funds to this crucial area of safety?

Legal requirements

The RRO requires all employers, business owners, or landlords to take responsibility for fire safety in the workplace. This includes:

  • Carrying out a fire risk assessment of the workplace, taking into account all employees and all those who may be affected by a fire in the workplace
  • Identifying the significant findings of the assessment and the details of anyone who might be especially at risk in case of fire. Where a business employs more than five people then these must be recorded
  • Providing and maintaining such fire precautions as are necessary to safeguard those who use the workplace
  • Informing, instructing and training employees about the fire precautions in the workplace

Failure to comply with fire safety legislation can lead to huge fines or even prison sentences. It is thereforeimperative all those with obligations under the RRO revisit the legislation and understand their role.